IGN Review of Shrek the Third
As of right now, you may be reading the review for the highest-grossing summer videogame of 2007. This isn't because Shrek the Third is an amazingly interesting title, or because it pushes the boundaries of gaming in any way whatsoever, but because Shrek fever has taken over the globe once again, and the young ogre-obsessed need a game to come home to. The franchise has done amazingly well over its three-movie stint, and all along the way game shelves have been peppered with mediocrity. And though there's nothing overwhelmingly amazing happening this time around, younger gamers (or those who foot the bill for them) should be happy to know that Shrek the Third manages to bring some solid entertainment this time around, even despite its overly-saturated nature, "been there, done that" feel, and blatant corner-cutting design. Shrek the Third is simple, but fun.
With so many Shrek titles already on the market - everything from kart racers to party games, adventures and mini-game compilations - it's hard to make any sort of dent in the already boisterous lineup of the series. Shrek has done everything already, and aside from some sort of MMORPG or tactics game there's very little new ground to tread. Obviously Activision was getting that feeling, as Shrek the Third sheds the genre gimmick and instead looks to focus on an already successful area of gaming: the beat-em-up. Shrek the Third is, with very little extra, a Point A/Point B brawler that takes action elements from games like God of War and injects licensed humor where necessary.
Still, it manages to work. Players take control of all the expected Shrek characters, and rip through level after level of linear button-mashing action. Controls are as simple as light and heavy attacks (handled with buttons primarily, and Wii motion waggle on Nintendo's console), with a very simplified special attack meter added on top. After a short tutorial to learn the ins and outs, players will be on their way to kicking the crap out of everything Shrek style.
For the most part the game's combat system does its job, though there's no doubt that it'll leave seasoned gamers with more to be desired. The game is entirely linear, with the only deviation being a small set of mini-games to pass the time, or collectable in-level items that gain Xbox achievements or basic extras on the other consoles. There's an extremely simple combo system that works to reward players who do more than just button-mash, as it revolves around grabbing enemies and pulling off finishing attacks. The more you do, the higher multiplier you score. Also included is the ability to pull off specials by using accumulated energy, letting Shrek or Fiona go into a crazy ogre-inspired bullet time, or pull off devastating kill-all attacks. This mode takes a smaller stance with supporting characters, as various cast members (such as Puss 'n Boots) cash in with only one special attack. It's extremely basic, but for a crowd still struggling to understand the concept of a double jump Shrek should entertain for a decent amount of time.
Where the game lacks though, it does in waves. Since the game is entirely action-based, you'd expect the ability for a little two player action. After all, if it's all about beating baddies up and advancing through the level, why not grab a friend to join in on the action, right? Not included. Shrek is a single player game (except when playing mini-games), as it tries to emulate the aforementioned God of War design throughout. Finishers are the same, you button-mash to open chests the same way, and power-ups suck toward the just like in God of War. The problem is Shrek the Third lacks any sort of polish, so camera cuts, character animations, and basic combat all take hits as players progress through the game. There's an insane amount of invisible walls in the room, stopping players from running around pillars or statues, or even jumping off a ledge to an area mere feet below, and it really gets in the way of the intended seamless action.
In another odd move, many of the character animations drop in frame-rate, as characters will animate choppy for no apparent reason while the world around them functions fine. The entire game is littered with these types of no-polish shortcomings, and players will be forced to simply learn the ins and outs of the game or just ignore its lesser points to really enjoy. When the camera snaps during key jumps, or invisible walls keep you from dodging a deadly enemy blast, however, it'll get to you.
And while much of the game's presentation is pretty decent, with solid scripted events mid-level, a full FMV intro for the game, and a very stylistic "puppet show" stage between major chunks of the game for story telling, the game is plagued with a lack of true voice acting from the major actors. Sometimes Shrek sounds as he should, and Donkey has the same wise-cracking attitude as Eddie Murphy on the big screen, but other times it's extremely apparent that the audio was done by a sound-alike. Graphically the game is a give and take as well, with decent lighting and real-time shadows gracing the adventure, while low-framed animations and odd visual glitches still pepper the entire experience. Much like the rest of the package, Shrek the Third manages to get the spirit of the movie into the game, but it lacks serious polish throughout.
©2007, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved